A LANDMARK partnership agreement has been signed between Devon County Council and the University of Exeter.

The Devon County Civic University Agreement formalises and strengthens the existing links between the two organisations.

Having received the backing of the County Council’s Cabinet and the University’s Executive Board, the aim is to generate greater benefits for people and businesses in Devon, supporting the county to be a thriving, sustainable and prosperous place to live and work.

Three immediate priorities of the partnership agreement are: -

• Developing a society which is ambitious for every young person to thrive through quality education, health, and social care;

• To provide ample access to affordable, “carbon considered” housing;

• Stimulate innovation and growth within the region’s key growth sectors: 

Environment, Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing, and Health, Care, and Life Sciences.

Devon County Council Leader John Hart said: “Our shared commitment and ambition with the University of Exeter is for this agreement to deliver positive change for Devon, supporting economic growth, protecting our local environment and improving the health and prosperity of local people.

"We want to ensure there are opportunities for everyone, regardless of their background, to improve their education and skills so that no-one is disadvantaged and young people can look forward to a brighter future.

“By working together and sharing our knowledge we can drive innovation to make the most of our natural environment and attract additional investment in the county.”

Professor Lisa Roberts, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter, said: “We are delighted to sign the Devon County Civic University Agreement to strengthen our ability to deliver a healthier, fairer and more sustainable future for communities across our region.

“In the decade ahead we have set out to use the power of our education and research to build a better world and that includes supporting economic growth, jobs and skills so that everyone in our region has the opportunity to thrive.

“Devon has huge potential and talent and by working together across organisations and sectors we can make a real difference to people’s lives and enable positive change in critical areas such as health and wellbeing, education, housing and leading the transition to a green economy.”

A Partnership Board will be established with representatives from each organisation to drive forward an annual action plan which will deliver shared priorities.

A number of early actions have been agreed and brought forward, with work already underway to support:

• Development of a social work degree apprenticeship programme to develop regional social work excellence;

• Improved outcomes for care experienced young people and adults, including support to access Higher Education;

• A Devon Education Alliance that uses research and evidence to support teaching and improve the progression of disadvantaged students at Key Stage four and five;

• Regional skills development to support growth of the region’s workforce, establishing regional apprenticeships and adult education routes into Social care, Healthcare, Technical and Engineering;

• Development of Devon’s three key growth sectors, the Environment, Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing, and Health, Care and Life Sciences, alongside extensive adoption of Digital and Net Zero skills and capability to underpin transformational growth;

• Raising the profile, engagement, and future development of the region’s key innovation assets at the University, Exeter Science Park, Devon Work Hubs, and the Future Skills Centre.

As part of the agreement, the University has also been working with Devon local authorities to establish an independent countywide Housing Commission.

This will develop an understanding of the future need for housing, overcome barriers to affordability and supply, while finding practical solutions to tackle the housing crisis while reducing carbon emissions.